Posts Tagged: fish

Apr 11



Some people might think I’m a bit bonkers, some would think me a little keen, but what can I say? I’m a big fan of the barbecue. And as a result, we had the first one of the year on Saturday.

Admittedly, we ate inside and we were cooking by torchlight rather than the afterglow of a beautiful summer’s day, but hey – this is England and we’ll do what we can.

We had langoustines with chimichurri -the sweet flesh given a welcome smoky char from the coals. There was also sea trout with barbecued fennel and parmesan aioli, topped off with capers and toasted almonds and baba ganoush given all the more oomph from the flames.

Skewers of marinated vegetables brushed with thyme and rosemary from the balcony also featured with the humble sausage – is any food finer when given the hot coal treatment?

Stuffed in soft rolls, blobbed with ketchup and mustard along with a few slivers of raw onion for some sweet crunch, this is the stuff that dreams are made of – and made a chilly night on the balcony warm through and through.

Mar 11

Summery ceviche


As you’re all no doubt aware, I get a little excited when the sun starts to come out a bit more regularly.
My cooking changes. Out go the braises, even if the temperature dictates. They will, of course, be back as soon as I go out for a while and remember quite how cold it is.

But for now – light salads paired with good sourdough, a Thai-style mackerel dish, poached fruit with natural yogurt and one of my new favourites – ceviche.

The technique of ‘cooking’ fish is believed to come from South or Central America. It’s one of those lovely ideas lost in the mists of time. Peru is one spot cited most often. It’s lip-smackingly fresh, sharp from limes, fiery from chillies and ultra-healthy.

There are few dishes you’ll eat and feel so virtuous afterwards. There are plenty of variations you can make at home – changing the fish, the herbs, the citrus – but one golden rule – buy the freshest fish you can from a fishmonger!

Click here for my recipe for sea bass ceviche

Jan 11

A fishy food story


One of my favourite food blogs and one I’ve brought you recipes from before belongs to Helen Graves – or ‘Proud of Peckham’ as her personal ad might read.

Not that she’d need one of course – she is forever whipping up luscious feasts for her particularly lucky chap and I read about them, hungrily, on her blog Food Stories.

Now, while we’re all trying to avoid eating naughty things post-xmas (and in my case, failing dismally), Helen opted to give up meat for January. And failed, I am glad to mention, dismally.

Still – post-failure she was back on track and turned her hand to the art of sousing – essentially ‘cooking’ fish in a spiced vinegar. A quick pickle, if you like – and a delicious, healthy and zingy, fresh way of serving fish – think really posh roll mops.

Anyway – in light of recent, er, failures I thought I’d bring you her gorgeous recipe for soused rainbow trout with pink peppercorns and lemon zest – a perfect way to restart a healthy January.

Chef’s note – you will need to use farmed trout for this. Large wild ones can carry parasites (as can many fresh water fish) and must be cooked before being eaten. You could try this recipe with a sea fish such as

Click here for Helen
Graves’ soused rainbow trout

May 09

Spice things up with a Mussel Rassam curry


There is something deeply satisfying about the process of making a curry. It seems almost like a secret formula, adding weights and measures of different and sometimes quite alien ingredients that affect the taste, colour, smell and even the noise the dish makes when cooking.

The alchemy involved is great fun though, embarking on a culinary adventure into the great unknown. One thing I have picked up is the importance of following a recipe as much down to the letter as you possibly can, guaranteeing your results will probably be as the recipe writer intended. Cooking curries can lead to feelings of great achievement in the kitchen too – and the pleasure of sitting down to a delicious end result, mostly cooked out of the kitchen cupboard.

Often they are also a wonderfully exotic lesson in frugality – costs are low but the results are so vibrant and pleasing. Mussels are a quirky and inexpensive addition to a curry – as in this one I swiped from Manoj Vasaikar, chef/proprietor at my nearly-local restaurant Indian Zing in Hammersmith.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients here most of them you will probably have in your store cupboard. Just take each step at a time and the results will be fantastic.

Indian Zing’s Mussel Rassam

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course)

  • 400g mussels                       
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, sliced
  • 5 tomatoes                       
  • 4 green finger chillies (halved and deseeded)       
  • 2 Garlic cloves                       
  • 25g tamarind pulp                   
  • 5g jaggery or sugar           
  • ¼ tsp turmeric                                                            
  • Salt to taste                    

For the Rassam powder

  • 5 dried red chillies (whole)               
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds                   
  • 3 tsp black peppercorns                           
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds                   

For the tempering

  • 3 tsp coconut or groundnut oil   
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves or a few freeze dried
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida

To garnish

  • A large bunch of  fresh coriander
  • 5 dried whole red chillies, fried briefly in oil (optional)


Blanch the tomatoes to remove skin and roughly chop. Set aside. Coarsely grate the jaggery and set aside. Soak the tamarind in warm water for 15 minutes and strain, reserving the liquid.

For the Rassam powder, roast all the ingredients in a thick bottomed pan for few seconds and then crush in a pestle and mortar to a powder.

Crush the garlic and sauté in 2 tsp of the oil until light brown. Add the shallot and sweat until soft but not coloured. Add the chopped tomatoes and the Rassam powder.

Add the washed mussels to the pan, discarding any that are not open. Add a pint of water, bring the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

While the mussels are cooking, make the tempering mixture. Heat 3 tsp of the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop add the ginger and sauté for a minute or two, then add the curry leaves and asafoetida and pour over the simmering Rassam – the mixture may pop and spit a bit.

Take off the heat and serve in a large bowl with the coriander and chillies scattered over and a finger bowl on the side!

Apr 09

The recipe collector – anchovy and mozzarella bread


I’m a recipe hoarder. I collect books, magazines, cuttings, hand-written notes. I’ve got photographs of all the pages from one of grandmother’s cookbooks and a box of neatly-typed cards from another. I have photocopied pages by the hundreds, stashed away for use on a rainy day. They are a constant source of inspiration, from lost classics to modern treats – and an insight into the evolution of the British diet.

The most recent addition to my ever-expanding collection is this fantastic, mouth-watering recipe from my girlfriend’s father, Tony. It’s a perfect addition to a barbecued lunch – and a great one for converting the non-anchovy lovers amongst you. The salty, savoury edge provides a perfect balance to the creamy milkiness of the chewy, golden mozzarella.

Tony’s anchovy and mozzarella bread

Ingredients (serves 6)

.    1 baguette
.    2 balls of mozzarella
.    1 tin anchovies plus oil
.    30g butter
.    olive oil


Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.  Cut the baguette top down two thirds of the way through about eight to ten times. Cut the cheese into quarter inch thick slices and slip into the holes in the bread. Drizzle over some olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven till golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.

Whilst the bread is cooking, warm a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and tip in the anchovies and their oil. The trick here is to let the anchovies essentially dissolve to form an unctuous sauce. Cook slowly until they break down, pushing them around with the back of a wooden spoon then set aside.

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven, pour over the anchovy sauce and serve.

Mar 09

Blog: The price of fish

anc_560.jpgI have a theory about food, a sort of philosophy I eat by I suppose. It’s a two-pronged topic which often crops up in conversation with foodie friends.

The first part governs the fact that it seems to only takes a single instance of enjoying a food you don’t like to start to love it. I usually order something new or something I might not be a fan of in very good restaurants, as more often than not it will have been given the sort of treatment to turn it into something spectacular.

And there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of learning to love a foodstuff that people around you have been blathering on about for ages. The gears fall into place and suddenly you understand what they mean.

The second relates to the quality of ingredients. This makes all the difference, which is why good restaurants source their ingredients well.

Take for example, the humble anchovy – prized in Ancient Rome where it was fermented and turned into <i>liquamen</i>, a fishy seasoning like that used in Thai cooking.

Anchovies and I had never been friends. I found their intense fishiness overpowering. It wasn’t for want of trying. I’d used them to season lamb, adding oomph by stuffing fillets inside slits in the meat along with rosemary and garlic.
Then, along came a marginally pricier version, and I was sold. The quality Spanish import was richer, saltier and meatier than anything I’d tasted before and now I am a happy convert.

It’s not about spending a lot more money, but rather buying less of a better thing. So if you’ve got your own foodie phobias, as I have with offal, too, take a chance,  buy a smaller amount of really good quality and see what a difference it makes.

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